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Good Deeds Attract Top Millennial Talent

3p Contributor | Friday October 4th, 2013 | 3 Comments

By Bradley Depew

Tweets about what a celebrity ate for breakfast retweeted by thousands of followers, and Instagram accounts consisting in nothing but “selfies”—it’s easy to look at the Millennial Generation and see little more than superficiality and narcissism.

But study after study is showing us just how wrong this picture is. Many Millennials are surprisingly engaged and driven to serve their communities and the world. And this drive carries over into the ways they think about their careers. When it comes to their professional lives, Millennials want meaningful jobs, and they are willing to work for less money to get them. One study found that 90 percent of MBA students would take less money to work for a company with a reputation for social responsibility and ethics.

Millennials are bringing new values with them as they begin their careers. The careers that appeal to them are about more than just turning a profit. They are not just looking for a steady paycheck: they are looking for a way to make an impact and be a force for good. Companies that do not make an effort to appeal to Millennials’ values—whether through the company mission or through charity and social responsibility programs—will likely struggle to attract top young talent.

Attracted to Impact

Millennials are willing to turn down jobs at Fortune 500 companies to work for companies that better reflect their values. Clearly, prestige and a generous salary are not enough to satisfy them. They want to be part of the team that makes a difference. Their drive to make an impact is leading Millennials to turn to start-ups in search of an opportunity to play a role in producing game-changing innovations.

And when you look at how start-ups advertise their job openings, it is not surprising that Millennials are drawn to start-ups. Grouper, a dating start-up, lures young applicants by promising an opportunity to “put a dent in the universe” and “make lives more awesome.” A nonprofit fundraising start-up, Amicus, offers the chance to have a dairy cow donated in your name if you apply or refer a friend. Start-ups like these—many of which are the projects of Millennial entrepreneurs—understand how Millennials think and emphasize meaning and impact throughout the recruiting process.

Driven by Mission-Driven Companies

Millennials’ passion for meaning and impact extends to the kind of work they want to do on a day-to-day basis. Millennials want jobs that will allow them to take on major responsibilities from day one. The most talented young people are not interested in a slow, laborious of climb up the corporate ladder, especially when they can go to a start-up and start managing budgets and getting involved in the development of strategic plans right away.

Millennials are attracted to start-ups and mission-driven companies because they want their jobs to be an extension of their beliefs and values. They look at an entry-level job pushing paper at a successful company and see monotony and tedium that contributes very little to the world. Even if that entry-level job has a lot of potential for growth, Millennials don’t want to have earn their way into meaningful work. They feel that they deserve meaningful work from the get go.

Changing the Rules?

We are just beginning to see the first signs of the influence of Millennials in our workforce. After all, the oldest Millennials are still in the early stages of their careers. It would almost be more surprising if they didn’t bring major changes as they continue to join the workforce and advance into positions of influence.

Start-ups and other companies in a variety of sectors are already working to attract top young talent. And many of those same companies are working to develop the products and services Millennials want. The company I work for, Bright Funds, wants to help Millennials make an impact no matter where they work by making it easy for them to donate to high-impact nonprofits working on the issues that matter most to them. We are part of a growing movement of social entrepreneurialism that is distinctly Millennial in spirit.

It seems fair to say that Millennials’ drive to serve, and to be part of something bigger, will shape whatever changes they bring to the world. To attract top Millennial talent, many companies are going to have to change they way they recruit. Some may genuinely have to change the way they do business. Though no one knows for sure what the future will hold, it may well turn out that the one word that best describes the Millennial Generation is a word very dear to them: impact.
Bradley Depew is a seasoned writer for Bright Funds, an innovative platform that works to change the way we think about giving. For more information visit brightfunds.org.

[Image credit: gymnast19, Flickr]


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  1. October 04, 2013 at 8:55 am PDT | jenboynton writes:

    I agree that it’s a good reminder for organizations to keep purpose at their core to attract top talent – that rings true for talent of any age, I think.

    I must admit that I chafe a bit at the Millennial expectation that you can jump right into a leadership or strategy role and be successful. I was chomping at the bit to have lots of responsibility early in my career too – but in retrospect, I was pretty green and I made a lot of mistakes. It’s the job of folks a few rungs up the latter to give stretch assignments, but ones that will allow young eager upstarts to succeed. And walking that balance takes experience that only time on the job can bring.

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  2. October 04, 2013 at 11:20 am PDT | jenboynton writes:

    I agree that it’s a good reminder for organizations to keep purpose at their core to attract top talent – that rings true for talent of any age, I think.

    I must admit that I chafe a bit at the Millennial expectation that you can jump right into a leadership or strategy role and be successful. I was chomping at the bit to have lots of responsibility early in my career too – but in retrospect, I was pretty green and I made a lot of mistakes. It’s the job of folks a few rungs up the latter to give stretch assignments, but ones that will allow young, eager upstarts to succeed. And walking that balance takes experience that only time on the job can bring.

    Reply Or REGISTER HERE if you are new.

  3. October 10, 2013 at 8:49 am PDT | Beth Anne Berman Seibel writes:

    This may be a trend seen in the Millennial workforce, but I feel the same way when it comes to work. I have had the desire to obtain a position that makes a difference to a cause(s) that matter to me for quite some time and I am not a Millennial.

    Is this really a Millennial trend or is it that the business world and society as a whole is paying more attention to the impact of our actions and it just happens to be in the time of the Millennials?

    I agree with jenboynton that work experience provides important learning that is not available in the classroom.

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